Although the original Inca city was said to have been founded in the 11th century, more recently scholars have established that Inca did not occupy the area until after 1200 AD. Before them the indigenous people of the Killke culture built the walled complex of Sacsayhuaman about 1100 AD. In November 2008, archeological researchers found that the Killke also built a major temple near Sacsayhuaman, as well as an acqueduct and roadway connecting prehistoric structures.
The Spanish explorer Pizarro sacked much of the Inca city in 1535. Remains of the palace of the Incas, the Temple of the Sun, and the Temple of the Virgins of the Sun still stand. In addition, Inca buildings and foundations in some cases have proved to be stronger than the foundations built in present-day Peru. Among the most noteworthy Spanish colonial buildings of the city is the Cathedral of Santo Domingo, Cusco.
The major nearby Inca sites are Pachacuti's presumed winter home, Machu Picchu, which can be reached on foot by an Inca trail or by train; and the "fortress" at Ollantaytambo. Sacsayhuaman was expanded by the Inca.
Less-visited ruins include: Inca Wasi, the highest of all Inca sites at 3,980 m (13,060 ft); Old Vilcabamba the capital of the Inca after the capture of Cusco; the sculpture garden at Chulquipalta (aka Chuquipalta, Ñusta España, The White Rock, Yurak Rumi); Tipón with working water channels in wide terraces; as well as Huillca Raccay, Patallacta, Choquequirao, Moray and many others.
The surrounding area, located in the Huatanay Valley, is strong in gold mining and agriculture, including corn, barley, quinoa, tea and coffee.
Thanks to remodelling, Cusco's main stadium Estadio Garcilaso de la Vega attracted more tourists during South America's continental soccer championship, the Copa América 2004 held in Peru. The stadium is home to one of the country's most successful soccer clubs, Cienciano. Cusco's local team has built a reputation in the world of club soccer, as it has won several international competitions in South America. It has yet to achieve such success in its home country.
The city is served by Alejandro Velasco Astete International Airport.